Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children.
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WILLMAR -- The standout at the Optimist Cross Country Meet -- other than the champions Leah Jessen and Lukas Gemar -- had to be the venue itself, flush in fall colors. On a cool, but sparkling Saturday, delegations of runners swished back and fourth on the plush green, rolling fairways at the Eagle Creek Golf Club. There were six races from 2,000 meters to 5,000 meters, plus a children's race. Gemar, the 2008 Class AA boys state champion, ran alone far in front and covered the 5k course in 16:01.
MINNESOTA WEST OVERVIEW: The Bluejays are coming off a 17-6 loss to Northland College, whose vice-like defense also held the Warriors to a single touchdown. Quarterback Teddy Joseph has thrown for 730 yards with five TDs and nine interceptions. Running back Joe Harris is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has six TDs.
A LOOK AT WILLMAR: The Cardinals have been erratic on offense, but seldom boring. Willmar gained 399 yards against Sauk Rapids but had only three touchdowns to show for it. Penalties negated three scores, plus there was an interception inside the 15 and a missed field goal from close range. "We still have to execute better on offense," said Willmar coach Jon Konold. "Our defense will have to stop the run. (Moorhead) is another (Class) 5A team, so you know they will come at you with a lot of people.
The hottest team in town, not the hottest ticket -- that would be Cardinal football -- is the Ridgewater College women's volleyball team. Crowds are small, but growing as the victories mount. The Lady Warriors are 21-1 and, for what it's worth, voted No. 1 by Division III coaches in the NJCAA. Winning is nothing new in this program. It's expected. Val Swanson established a vigorous program in the 1980s and took it into the new century. Joe Sussenguth took over in 2006, winning the national title in his first try.
FERGUS FALLS OVERVIEW: The Spartans and Ridgewater have this in common: each team's single win came against the winless Vermilion Ironmen. Behind a 141-yard game by running back Eric Brown, Fergus won at Ely 30-20 last Saturday. Brown, a 200-pound sophomore out of St. Paul Arlington, is the leading rusher in the MCAC South, averaging 5.0 yards over 84 carries. He is a double-threat, often taking a direct snap from center which has allowed him to pass for 183 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
WILLMAR -- A full moon, a full house and a team in full bloom were all on display Friday at Hodapp Field for Willmar's homecoming. The Cardinals drained the oil from the Sauk Rapids offense and piled up yards with the ball to even their record at 2-2 with a 21-0 victory over the Storm on a near-perfect night after a week of rain. Senior linebacker Nathanial Swoyer was delighted by the Cardinal whitewash. "We shut down the run and forced them to pass and our cornerbacks wouldn't let them have it." The Storm (2-2) managed just 44 net rushing yards, much of that coming from the second string
The Willmar Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame inductees for 2010 are Kenny Johnson (Class of 1947) and Jon Habben ('75) for 2010. They'll be introduced at halftime of Friday's homecoming football game against Sauk Rapids. Habben was among the defensive leaders on the only Cardinal football team to reach a state championship game. That was in 1974. He also competed in three state swimming meets. Habben lives in Avon, not far from St. John's University where he was an outstanding four-time letterwinner in swimming. The Johnnies twice selected him their MVP.